Now that the summer festival season is over, Squamish council has a lot on its plate as it reaches the one-year-to-go mark until the next election. Of all the important issues on lawmakers’ plate — the Oceanfront, economic development, downtown revitalization, regional transit among them — none is more important than emergency preparedness.
Certainly we’ve got a more than adequate (some would state-of-the-art) emergency operations centre next to the police station. And thanks to Jim Lang and others, the community does have a plan for what to do if there’s a major earthquake, a devastating storm, significant landslide or — with the last major flood only 10 years in our rear-view mirrors — another fall deluge.
But is our other key infrastructure likely to withstand the forces that nature, in a post-climate-change world, appears increasingly likely to throw at us? Well, we’d say it depends on the type of disaster, when it happens and how severe it is.
This past spring, a sinkhole appeared in the Brackendale dike just north of the eagle viewing area. A DOS official said the initial analysis showed the dike was “not structurally sound in any way” and that both a short-term fix and larger, long-term solutions were needed. In the end, council authorized $200,000 to upgrade the dike where “the land had been disturbed,” leaving one to wonder about the structural integrity of the remainder if there’s a deluge this fall.
Also in the spring, the consulting firm Dave Mitchell and Associates presented a draft fire master plan to council that included recommended upgrades to Fire Hall 2 on Tantalus Way. Built in 1978, the hall at the time of the report had cracks running up the side of its concrete-block walls. Council allocated $15,000 toward upgrades this year and another $340,000 for next year. This, after a July 2011 report raised concerns about the ability of the hose tower at the Alex Munro Fire Hall on Clarke Drive to withstand a major earthquake. The DOS spent something like $50,000 on seismic upgrades to the tower. But really, whether either fire hall will withstand “the big one” is anyone’s guess.
This writer realizes council has limited cash to throw at these problems. We just don’t think this is an area where local lawmakers can afford to take their eye off the ball.
— David Burke